We reported back in April that the Basel Action Network (BAN), the group that told the world about the dumping of toxic electronic waste in China and Africa, had launched the world’s first global e-waste recycler certification. It’s backed by both environmental organisations and major corporations. The certification is built round the e-Stewards Standard, created by BAN with input from industry leaders and health and environmental specialists.
At the time of the launch of the programme there were several companies expected to be certified about now. I expressed a certain disappointment at the time that all the companies mentioned at the launch as already working on certification were US-based. Well now at least a European facility has achieved the standard. The Redemtech TCM Centre in Surrey, UK is the first e-Stewards-Certified facility in Europe and the first outside the United States (although it is the European arm of US company Redemtech, the privately-held subsidiary of Microelectronics, Inc).
The lack of enforcement of the WEEE regulations has allowed toxic electronic waste to slip out of Europe’s ports and make its way to Asia and Africa where it is often recycled in primitive and environmentally damaging conditions or simply dumped or burned. Recent hardware obsolescence such as the switch from analogue to digital TVs and flat screen technology has exacerbated the situation.
E-Stewards is the first certification standard available in Europe that ensures that recyclers do not deposit toxic e-waste in landfills or export it to the developing world. It also enforces compliance with European waste from electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) regulations through its accountability and audit control requirements.
The e-Stewards certification tries to ensure the integrity of recycling operations through an independent audit process by accredited bodies. It provides a detailed 67-page guidance document for auditors and recyclers to ensure consistent application of the standard. E-Stewards Certification is currently available in all 41 OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation), EU (European Union) and EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries. Three more European facilities are expected to be certified in the next months.
In addition, companies and institutions that agree to make best efforts to always use e-Stewards recyclers, can be designated as e-Stewards Enterprises. Currently Samsung, Capital One, Premier Farnell, Bank of America and Wells Fargo Banks are among the already designated e-Stewards Enterprises.
It’s obviously a good thing and I hope the certification spreads, as well as the number of companies designated as e-Stewards Enterprises.
What’s disappointing is that the WEEE regulations in Europe, which led the world at the time the scheme was agreed back in 2003, has fallen into disrepute because of lack of enforcement. A study was published by the EU early this year that recommended the creation of a body to manage implementation and enforcement of the laws, along with other tightening up of the regulations to make Member States more accountable. It was partly because another report revealed that enforcement action had found that 20% of waste shipments were illegal.
Nothing has happened yet, but a new version of WEEE is expected, possibly by the end of 2010.